Generators are great to have around – especially if you find yourself in an off-grid situation! Those that are dependent on power for medical equipment are especially vulnerable during power outages. Portable or permanently installed standby generators provide a temporary source of power during emergency power outages. But because these emergency tools are not regularly used, it is easy to overlook basic safety concerns; and, at times this can be dangerous. In fact, generator misuse can lead to dangerous issues like carbon monoxide poisoning, fire, and electrocution, so it needs to be taken seriously.
When purchasing a generator, you will need to add up the total amount of power (watts) needed for appliances to run and find a generator capable of handling the total amount. The total electric load should never exceed the manufacturers of the generator.
If you are installing a permanent generator, make sure it has a transfer switch. The transfer switch prevents energy from leaving your generator and going back onto the utility electrical equipment when it could be dangerous to a lineman or others near downed power lines, a process known as “back feed.” A qualified electrician should install your generator and transfer switch.
Make sure you know how your generator works and how to safely operate it. Part of this is reading the entire owner’s manual. You cannot “overdo it” or absorb too much information when it comes to the use of this important tool. Moreover, make sure the generator can handle the wattage of the appliances you are connecting. As well, practice setting up the generator and connecting it beforehand. Listed below are 6 safety tips you should know before the next emergency hits.
6 Generator Safety Tips
Practicing good safety habits can save your life. Take a look at these six generator tips to keep in mind before the next emergency or natural disaster strikes.
1. Operate it outdoors in an area with plenty of ventilation. Never run a generator in a home or inside a garage. Generators give off deadly carbon monoxide. Practice good emergency preparedness and install carbon monoxide detectors inside the home.
2. Do not plug a generator into the wall to avoid back feed. Use heavy-duty extension cords to connect appliances to the outlets on the generator.
3. Turn the generator on before plugging appliances to it. Once the generator is running, turn your appliances and lights on one at a time to avoid overloading the unit. Remember, generators are for temporary usage; prioritize your needs.
4. Generators pose electrical risks, especially when operated in wet conditions. Use a generator only when necessary when the weather does not create wet or moist conditions. Protect the generator by operating it under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot form puddles or drain under it. Always ensure your hands are dry before touching the generator.
5. Be sure the generator is turned off and cool before fueling it. Before refueling, turn off a gas-powered generator and let it cool. The reason being is that gasoline spilled on hot engine parts can ignite. Allowing the engine to cool also reduces the risks of burns while refueling. Take care to wipe up any spills that occur when refueling. Follow these tips to store your fuel safely.
6. Keep your children and pets away from portable generators! Many generator components are hot enough to burn you during operation, and could really hurt an animal or a child.
A Few Maintenance Tips
You also want to make sure you can adequately maintain your generator as well. Proper maintenance will keep your generator from failing or malfunctioning when you need it the most. The tips below are from Electric Generators Direct’s website.
Fresh Oil – As with any small-engine power equipment, changing the oil is a major factor in maintaining reliability. The majority of new generators need their first oil change to be done after just 30 hours of use. After the first oil change is completed, future oil changes only need to be done every 100 hours of use, or every season at the very least. To be prepared for unexpected extended power outages, stock up on oil, oil filters, and even gas.
Change your Spark Plug and Air Filter – Change out these generator essentials after every 200 hours of use, you will need to change your spark plug and air filter. Or change them at least once at the start of each season.
Store It on an Empty Tank – If you’re planning on putting your generator away in storage for longer than a month, be sure to drain the fuel from the tank.
Charge the Battery – Keep your generator on a trickle charger.
Generators are necessary and highly beneficial. They definitely come in handy when the power goes out, but remember to use them safely and keep them maintained so they will be ready when you need them.